Cartograph

gerardlange_cartograph_installationview01

Cartography is simply the making of maps, but more specifically it can be described as the combination of geography and aesthetics for effectively communicating ideas. Having grown up in a family of scientists, one of whom is a practicing cartographer, it should come as no surprise that I have always had an affinity for collecting and creating maps of various kinds. Throughout life I have documented travels by marking roads taken in an oversized U.S. atlas, as well as on a wall-sized poster in my office. Additionally maps have long been integrated into many collages produced in artist journals for the symbolic effect of invoking a sense of travel, wanderlust, discovery and knowledge.
 
Works in this exhibition make use of map-like elements in a variety of forms and mediums, but all linked to notions of communicating ideas about the social landscape and mankind's ecological impact on the earth. Beginning with excerpts from personal collage journals, I have branched out to making large-scale mixed media works displaying sociological and agricultural imagery. Moving to eastern North Carolina from Atlanta, Georgia in 2006 marked the first occasion I had lived in a rural region. The transition from an urban upbringing and aesthetic to the rural is manifested here in an investigation of how interstate commerce affects regional growers in an ever-shrinking global economy. Collages in the exhibition mix images of produce and farming, along with homes and buildings, juxtaposed with other urban and rural environs. As with my collage journals, these works are infused with stream-of-consciousness writing presented as meditations on the issues facing local farmers as agriculture becomes more regulated by government oversight.
 
Other works in the exhibition explore the physical impact humans have on the environment. Traditional photographs in the series depict microcosmic slices of the earth viewed from directly above, where manmade lines and impressions left in the ground offer evidence of a latent presence. Lines in these photographs are directly representative of drawn map elements and surface impressions further imply contour lines and topographical features. Use of line, contour and topography is repeated in the cast-concrete sculpture Fingerprint, where a recessed path descends into the block of concrete. Literally this form represents a strip mine, while when viewed from directly above, the helical ovals coalesce to resemble a human thumbprint. Additionally, a small series of photographs depicting crushed, flattened aluminum cans and a large-scale collage made from blown rubber tires both discuss symbolic marks man has on the environment through littering. In the case of the cans this version of culture mapping shows discarded icons, whose regional identity is homogenized by people's careless discarding of them. With the rubber tires, the American ideological associated with highway travel sparks concerns that our inherent lifestyle carries with it damaging effects on our immediate surroundings.
 
Traces of Life, left, and Residue are two works in the exhibition that depict marks made my man on the environment. The image on the left is a six foot square collage of black and white prints depicting tire marks in mud. These markings shown in the photogaph are remniscient of topographical features seen on maps. Mirroring this work in size and compositional structure is another collage made from road rubber gleaned from eastern North Carolina interstate highways. This work, constructed from discarded material left behind from tire blow outs speaks to another kind of mark man leaves on the environment.